Oscars, Red Carpet Give 'Idol' Competition

Rash Report: Top 10 Also Includes 'House,' 'Lost,' 'CSI'

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- It was an especially colorful week in prime time, particularly for the top 10 programs in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic.

'Jai Ho,' the rhythmically captivating song from 'Slumdog Millionaire' won an Academy Award for best original song.
'Jai Ho,' the rhythmically captivating song from 'Slumdog Millionaire' won an Academy Award for best original song. Credit: AP
Most memorable were the bright hues worn by those dancing to "Jai Ho," the rhythmically captivating song from "Slumdog Millionaire" that won an Academy Award for best original song. It was a complete contrast from the parade of pale dresses on the red carpet by other winners like Penelope Cruz, who won for best actress in a supporting role.

But the big winner was ABC and the telecast itself, which defied media gravity by gaining 13% more viewers and finishing first, with a 12.1/29 rating and share. The "Oscars Red Carpet" show rolled up third place with a 7.2/19.

Of course, as far as gold statues go, it's Emmy Awards, not Oscars, that may in order for dramas such as Fox's "House" (fifth, 5.5/15) and ABC's "Lost" (sixth, 4.4/11), which manage to be original even though both are now half a decade old.

And although it may be too early to talk Emmy for Laurence Fishburne, who has already won twice ("Miss Evers' Boys," 1997, and "Tribeca," 1993) and has been nominated for an Oscar ("What's Love Got to do With It?" 1994), maybe one should go to the producers of his new show, CBS's "CSI" (seventh, 4.3/11 in last night's fast-affiliate ratings). Because despite the program losing some viewers (it was helped by ABC running a "Grey's Anatomy" repeat last night), in general they have managed a prime-time rarity: switching stars mid-series, let alone mid-season, while maintaining quality and remaining competitive.

Another CBS drama, "NCIS," is less likely to ever win a best-drama Emmy, but it's a quiet, consistent, fan favorite, and this week tied for ninth, with a 3.9/11.

Yet, it's not the red carpet, red- and orange-clad dancers, cream-colored dresses or gold statues that usually define prime time. Instead, it's green, as in cash. And the media money model that's kept the networks competitive is the low cost and high ratings of reality TV. And this week it wasn't just Fox's "American Idol," which was ranked second for Wednesday's two-hour version (9.1/23) and fourth for last night's episode (7.0/19 in the fast-affiliate ratings), or CBS's "Survivor" (a fast-affiliate 3.9/11, which would tie it for ninth) but Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" that made the list, as it rode its "Idol" lead-in to tie for seventh, with a fast-affiliate 4.3/11.

"Hell's Kitchen" benefited from a rare Thursday version of "Idol," as the regular Tuesday/Wednesday scheduling was shifted to accommodate President Barack Obama's address to Congress. Carried live on 11 networks, individual demographic distinctions aren't available. But based on the 52.3 million who viewed the blue mood about the red ink, the White House captured even more attention than the red carpet, as the Barack star was watched by 44% more total viewers than the movie stars, making it truly the most watched show in any demo this week.

Friday: One of the reasons so many watched Obama's speech is because of scary stats such as today's fourth-quarter GDP revision, which showed the economy plunged at the fastest rate since 1982. Need context? Skip the histrionics from cable shouters such as CNBC's Rick Santelli and opt for the reasoned, seasoned analysis of David Brooks and Mark Shields on PBS's "Newshour with Jim Lehrer."
Saturday: OK, need a laugh now? Rude, crude but often funny "Blazing Saddles" runs on AMC.
Sunday: With Saturday's "Saturday Night Live" a repeat (again), get your fix with Sunday's "Saturday Night Live: The Best of Will Ferrell."

With people being fired at record rates and Trump Entertainment filing for bankruptcy, does anyone really want to hear the Donald bark "You're fired!"? Sunday's ratings will tell.

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.

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